ALBUMEN PHOTOGRAPH OF CAMP OF THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC HEADQUARTERS GUARD, COLLIS ZOUAVES, 114th PA, BY ALEXANDER GARDNER

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The headquarters of the Army of the Potomac was always a worthwhile subject for photographic crews and the exotic uniforms of the Collis Zouaves, serving as the headquarters guard in 1864, were an added attraction. This is one of several views of their camp at Brandy Station just before the opening of Grant’s Spring 1864 offensive. The mount measures 14 by 11 inches and has some edge chips, short tears, foxing, a piece of tape on the reverse, which do not come near the image itself. The albumen photo measures about 9 by 7 inches and is mounted above a printed caption at left crediting Alexander Gardner himself as the photographer (many of his views were taken by Timothy O’Sullivan) and at right giving his address as Washington, DC. At bottom is the printed a Philip and Solomons, Washington, DC, publisher’s credit.

A grove of tall trees was selected for the campsite to provide some shade, but tall stumps in the foreground show that some clearing was done, for building material or fuel. A row of tents with a few wood huts stretches across the background from lower right to upper left. Blankets have been stretched out in front of the tens to air or dry. Four zouaves in full uniform with fez and turban are posed among the trees in the foreground. Another figure at left with his back to the camera is attired more conventionally in light trousers and dark coat and may be an officer or visitor. At right, along the row of tents a small flag is visible standing next to tent with an open door. What seems to be a spearpoint finial is visible atop its staff and the size of the flag suggests it is a regimental camp color or guide flag.

The regiment had organized in August 1862 with a company of zouaves that had served with Gen. Banks as its nucleus. They joined the Third Corps, fighting and suffering significant losses at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, where they were in the struggle for the Peach Orchard on July 2. In the Fall of 1863 they were selected by Meade to replace the 93rd NY as the headquarters guard and as part of Patrick’s provost brigade were responsible not just for camp security, but guarding the headquarters wagon train and custody of Confederate prisoners detained at the Provost Marshal’s. At Guiney’s Station they reportedly fought off a Confederate attack that came near the army headquarters. They returned to service in the line in late March 1865 and took part in the April 2 assault on Petersburg. They lost 7 officers and 66 men killed or mortally wounded during their service.

Part of a photographic series taken by one of the war’s preeminent photographers, the image would frame up nicely and display well.  [sr]

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